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State senator Allan Spear dies

Allan H. Spear, a former state Senate president, died Saturday at age 71, the Star Tribune reported.

Spear, who became one of the first openly gay legislators in the country, died of complications following heart surgery on Thursday, Don Jorovsky, a longtime friend who used to work for Spear, said.

Spear was a member of the Minnesota DFL Party and resident of Minneapolis, the Star Tribune reported. Elected in 1972, he was Senate president from 1993 to 2000 and was the first non-attorney to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee. Spear retired in 2000.

Spear became one of only two openly gay legislators in the country after he announced that he was gay in an interview with the Minneapolis Star newspaper in 1974.

Spear started working to amend Minnesota's Human Rights Act in the 1970s to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. The legislation passed in 1993.

Spear is survived by his life partner, Junjiro Tsuji, and his brother, Richard Spear.

Plans for a memorial service are pending, the Star Tribune reported.